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How you parent is partly genetic

Updated: March 21, 2014 09:12 AM
© iStockphoto.com / Charity Myers © iStockphoto.com / Charity Myers

FRIDAY, March 21, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Genes may play a major role in parenting styles, according to a new study.

"The way we parent is not solely a function of the way we were parented as children," said study co-author S. Alexandra Burt, an associate professor of psychology at Michigan State University. "There also appears to be genetic influences on parenting."

Burt and her colleagues analyzed 56 studies that included more than 20,000 families worldwide. They concluded that genes influence 23 percent to 40 percent of parents' warmth, control and negativity toward their children.

The findings challenge the popular belief that how parents deal with their children is solely the result of how they were parented. But it's not clear whether genes have a direct or indirect -- such as through a parent's personality -- effect on parenting, the researchers said.

Another discovery is that parenting is also influenced by a child's behavior.

"One of the most consistent and striking findings to emerge from this study was the important role that children's characteristics play in shaping all aspects of parenting," the authors wrote in the study, which was published in the March issue of the journal Psychological Bulletin.

The researchers concluded that numerous factors affect parenting styles.

"Parents have their own experiences when they were children, their own personalities, their own genes," Burt said in a university news release. "On top of that, they are also responding to their child's behaviors and stage of development."

"Basically, there are a lot of influences happening simultaneously," she said. "We need to be sensitive to the fact that this is a two-way process between parent and child that is both environmental and genetic."

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers tips for raising safe and healthy kids.

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